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Laos.....slow boat

Chiang Mai, Chiang Kong, Huay Xai, to Luang Prabang

sunny 27 °C

There is no easy way to get from Chiang Mai over to Laos without taking a few different methods of transport. The trips are widely advertised all over Thailand so we waited until we went to got to our guesthouse to buy the tickets. From this we knew we would be collected from Chiang Mai taken to Chiang Kong to stay there overnight and then take over the border into Laos.....simple....yes.....but what a long long journey. Some good tips here if you need to know.

We took the late bus as it was a mini bus with only 5 of us in there. The journey advertised loses an hour compared to all the others and I initially thought this would be because the roads would be quieter, however, it was because the driver thinks he is Sterling Moss and the best thing to do is buckle up and not look out of the windows otherwise you will be gripping the edge of your seat thinking that this will be your last trip ever. There are some serious close shaves and it doesn't help when you have a toilet stop the driver is swigging on some kind of cough medicine which is a common thing to give you a buzz .....like red bull. I would never touch the stuff but the driver told me that it would keep him awake, so bearing this in mind, we all climbed back into the bus....lives in his hands....with us gripping the seats. It's funny because if I was at home you wouldn't get me in this bus!

So we arrived an hour before....even went past our stop, he was buzzing that much, and our ticket included an nights accommodation with breakfast. The room was basic but nice with ensuite.....not Ritz...but who cares at 130am. Getting up at 7 was a killer though and the breakfast wasn't that enticing. We habit drummed into us that we would be leaving at 8 but we didn't leave til 9 and also they went on and on that there was no where to get food after leaving the guesthouse so we bought rolls and cushions for the boat ....they said the seats were like benches.....everyone bought cushions. We were taken from the guesthouse into the town and dumped off at a travel agency....that was step one. They took our passports....needed for the boat tickets and we had to wait to be collected about by tuk tuk and taken down the road and dropped at at the river where you take a small boat across the river into Huay Xai, Laos. You then queue with your boat group to get your visas....two forms to fill out, bish bash bosh and you're in. You will need passport photos and you can not get them done here. This takes forever....you then have to walk up a steep hill and get another tuk tuk which takes you to a cafe ......where incidently you can buy rolls.....get them here because the guesthouse ones were bloody awful! There are shops for drinks etc and more food so don't panic before.....you can walk down to the boat from here. The boat leaves at 1130.

When we got onto the boat we were told that we couldn't leave yet as more people were arriving, they literally pack you inline sardines....TIP.....GET THERE EARLY AND GET A SEAT.....we didn't see any hard benches just old car seats, which were comfy, so we purched ourselves down. Another tip.....we met Jo and Ashley in Goa who gave us the heads up on the boat, bearing in mind it's a two day trip....the scenery can become second nature.....bring beer, vodka...whatever.....so I bought a bottle of vodka and a bottle of coke with a few cans of beer to share around. We had a brilliant time on that boat....it was like a party! Got to know many people and the people we met on the boat were doing the same trip as us through Laos so we just kept meeting up.....it was lovely. It rained a lot of the way but we were verging on Monsoon season....plus if it was hot there I think the journey would be quite uncomfortable.

We arrived in Pakbeng about 6 or 7 pm and we all stayed in a guesthouse by the river but you have to walk up a very steep hill in the dark, now I'm not blaming the vodka but lack of sleep from the previous nights but there was no chance of me joining the group for dinner as I was absolutely shattered....I went to bed at 7ish and was out for the count. Chloe joined the group and had an amazing time....I missed out apparently! The guesthouse was part of the trip, you can opt to find your own place for less money but to be honest it's just not worth the hassle running around in the dark. there are plenty of guest houses and loads of free roomsobering much of a much so we went with our group. We got up for breakfast ordered rolls for the boat for day two which they forgot to do which made us late for the boat....remember what I said.....get there early....well because we weren't early we didn't have a seat...seriously....no seat for an all day journey. We had to sit on a step....I was not a happy bunny I can tell you especially as there was a Chinese lady...and I say that in the loosest term, with her bare feet up on a spare seat refusing to move them. This is considered very disrespectful in Asia as she should have known. Then her husband kept rubbing his arm against Chloe's leg and putting his stuff by my feet so I couldn't move.....I was getting agitated! I just about kept my cool!

This is when the cushions came in handy and chatting to people again takes your mind off the trip. I would definately recommend is journey over a bus ride any day.....think of it as a cruise down the Mekong River. We arrived in Luang Prabang just after 5pm from memory and were bombarded with tuk tuk drivers telling us all sorts of rubbish like you couldn't walk to the town because it's too far or that there are massive hills to walk up.....all rubbish....it's like a five minute walk to the town with ample accommodation. The next leg....... Is on its way....I've got some catching up to do!

Posted by Vicky Bailey 06:26 Archived in Laos Tagged travel river luang_prabang trip chiang_mai ferry journey mother_daughter blog world_trip slow_boat huay_xai back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing chiang_kong

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